Ryan Briscoe led a Penske one-two on the opening day of the IndyCar preseason test at a chilly Barber Motorsports Park, with Justin Wilson emerging as the pacesetting team's closest challenger.
Penske would have claimed a top-three sweep with Briscoe, Helio Castroneves (left) and Will Power but for the efforts of Wilson, who pushed Power back to fourth despite a late crash.
With this week's two days at Barber the only winter group test before the season opener in Brazil, Briscoe was delighted that Penske had proved to be the team to beat.
"It's nice to be at the top of the speed charts," said Briscoe. "It's important because it is our only test before the first race, so we're all comparing times. It's nice to have the Team Penske cars on top. It's a great way to start the year."
Wilson was also pleased to run so strongly on his first appearance with new team Dreyer & Reinbold, despite his accident.
"All in all, I think that it went well and I'm pleased with P3," he said. "I'm getting comfortable in the car and with my new engineer and crew. Unfortunately, at the end of the day I just clipped the grass going into Turn 1 and the car snapped around on me. The car isn't too badly damaged and I'm OK."
Ganassi's Scott Dixon and reigning champion Dario Franchitti were fifth and ninth, split by KV duo E.J. Viso (below right) and Takuma Sato, and Tony Kanaan in the best of the Andretti Autosport cars.
While Kanaan felt he made great strides during the test day, some of his teammates were struggling, with Ryan Hunter-Reay back in 16th as he fine-tuned his setup on his debut with the team, and Danica Patrick troubled by the weather conditions in 18th.
Newman/Haas/Lanigan's new recruit Hideki Mutoh completed the top 10 ahead of Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport) and Conquest's recent signing Mario Romancini.
KV ran a third car for former Honda Formula 1 test driver James Rossiter, with the Briton taking 13th place on his IndyCar debut. Rossiter has been linked to a third race seat with the squad, a plan KV has yet to confirm.
Three of the 2010 IndyCar squads chose to skip the test. Panther's Dan Wheldon is running at Sebring instead due to the cold weather at Barber, while new team FAZZT preferred to continue work at its Indianapolis base having successfully tested earlier in the winter. Dale Coyne Racing also sat out Barber, but ran with JR Hildebrand at Sebring last week.
A total of 20 drivers took to the track Wednesday, with at least one more expected to join on Thursday when former Indy Lights champion Jay Howard takes a turn in Sarah Fisher's car. The pair are alternating in the Sarah Fisher Racing seat this year.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Ryan Briscoe Penske 1m10.5052s
2. Helio Castroneves Penske 1m10.7146s + 0.2094s
3. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold 1m10.7397s + 0.2345s
4. Will Power Penske 1m10.7637s + 0.2585s
5. Scott Dixon Ganassi 1m10.8927s + 0.3875s
6. EJ Viso KV 1m10.9186s + 0.4134s
7. Takuma Sato KV 1m11.1138s + 0.6086s
8. Tony Kanaan Andretti 1m11.1433s + 0.6381s
9. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1m11.1825s + 0.6773s
10. Hideki Mutoh Newman/Haas/Lanigan 1m11.2212s + 0.7160s
11. Marco Andretti Andretti 1m11.3557s + 0.8505s
12. Mario Romancini Conquest 1m11.4567s + 0.9618s
13. James Rossiter KV 1m11.7759s + 1.2707s
14. Vitor Meira Foyt 1m11.9171s + 1.4119s
15. Raphael Matos de Ferran Luczo Dragon 1m11.9924s + 1.4872s
16. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 1m12.1369s + 1.6317s
17. Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 1m12.1543s + 1.6491s
18. Danica Patrick Andretti 1m12.5369s + 2.0317s
19. Simona de Silvestro HVM 1m12.8124s + 2.3072s
20. Sarah Fisher Sarah Fisher 1m16.0138s + 5.5086s